Oculus Link transforms your Quest or Quest 2 headset into a PC VR headset, using high-performance PC hardware to display images instead of the standalone mobile hardware in the headset. Oculus Air Link offers the same, but without cables!
Looking back at the Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift was the company’s first consumer VR headset and has long been the most popular way to get high-end PC VR at a reasonable price. All models of the Rift, including the eventual Rift S, used multiple connections to attach to a computer.
This included a USB 3.0 for data such as headset movement and to send audio to the headphone jack. Early Rift models used HDMI to receive video, but the Rift S uses DisplayPort instead. You also had to connect at least one external tracking camera, which monitors infrared tracking lights on the Rift headset and controllers. This is where the precise depth data comes from.
This isn’t exactly a pick-and-play design, but at the time it was much more elegant than older attempts at VR.
Initially, the Rift and Quest headsets were two separate product lines, but then Oculus engineers learned that the single USB-C port on the Quest could be used to connect it to a PC and link it together. For a long time this function was dubbed. “Oculus Link” was listed as experimental in Quest’s Software. After all major bugs were fixed, it has become a standard part of Quest and Quest 2, while at the same time Oculus has discontinued the Oculus Rift S.
What is Oculus Link and how does it work?
Oculus Link (now renamed “Meta”) is a special feature of the Quest and Quest 2 VR headsets that turns them into PC VR headsets. By using Oculus Link, you can play all PC VR games that work with the Oculus Rift. From the game’s perspective, you’re using a Rift device, with the Quest software client on your computer handling all the translation work between the headset and the computer.
To use Oculus Link, you need the following:
A VR-ready PC. A high-quality USB-C cable of at least 3 meters (10 feet). The Quest software client is installed on your PC and up to date. A Quest headset that has been updated to the latest system software.
When it comes to the USB-C cable, you’ll get away with a USB 2 cable, but you’ll experience lower image quality and occasional stutters. We highly recommend using a USB 3 or 3.1 cable for the best experience. Check out our roundup of Quest 2 accessories for the best suggestions.
USB 3.0 and 3.1 provide more than enough bandwidth to carry all the data you need between the Quest and PC. That is, if you compress the video stream in real time.
The good news is that the powerful mobile hardware in the Quest headsets can decompress that video stream almost instantly, so you won’t notice any latency differences between the Rift S and Quest headsets. Oculus has carefully redesigned the render pipeline for the Quest so that they still achieve the necessary goals to maintain VR presence.
While Oculus Link is a mainstream feature of Quest, a new experimental feature called “Air Link” has been added. As you’ve probably guessed. this is a wireless version of Link.
What is Oculus AirLink?
Air Link does the same job as Oculus Link, but instead of communicating with your headset via a USB-C cable, it all happens over Wi-Fi.
While Oculus Link is currently an official feature of the Quest and Quest 2, Air Link is still an experimental feature at the time of writing. This means that it could get better or worse with each update and it could even be taken away in the future. For now, however, you have the option to use it as an alternative to:
To make Air Link work as well as possible, we have a few recommendations:
A VR-ready PC. An Ethernet connection from the PC to the router. A 5Ghz 802.11ac router or better, preferably a dedicated one.
When we say “dedicated”, we mean that the router is only used by the Quest and not for the LAN and WAN traffic of the household as well. This removes any latency issues coming from the router trying to give network traffic a fair share of bandwidth and processing resources.
You don’t need to be in the same room as the PC to use Air Link, but you do need to be close to the router with nothing blocking the signal. Of course, since you’re not plugged into a power source, Air Link is limited by the battery life of the Quest headset.
RELATED: The Best Wi-Fi Routers of 2021
Using Oculus Link and Oculus Air Link
To use Oculus Link or Oculus Air Link, you need the equipment listed above and follow several steps to set up and activate the feature. This allows you to play PC VR games with your Quest or Quest 2. The steps with both headsets are practically the same.
If you’re looking for detailed instructions, check out our Oculus Quest PC VR tutorial to get started.
This post What is Oculus Link and how do you use it?
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